Malas or Tibetan Buddhist malas are strings of prayer beads that are used during changing or meditation. They’re used to focus ones awareness and concentration during spiritual practice. The word “mala” means garland or rosary in Sanskrit.

They are usually made from sandalwood, body seeds or semiprecious stones beads like quartz, jade or amber. The most common malls are the 108 bead full mall and the 27 bead wrist mala. The malls have a larger, decorative meru or guru bead and a spacer bead. There’s also one to four dividers beads and some have additional silver or gold counters are there to keep track of the hundreds and thousands of bhums or repetitions of 108.

The beads are strung with a burgundy or maroon chord, which symbolizes the unbroken lineage teachings and bloodline of the Buddha.

Malas are used to count mantra recitations and to focus during practice. You hold it in your left (receiving) hand, with the beads between your index and thumb. It’s held gently and with respect as you start counting with the first bead after the guru bead.

Hold the beads and count each one in turn as you recite a mantra, vow or affirmation that will help you keep the mind focused.

When you finish the 108 or 27 recitations, don’t pass over the “guru” bead because it’s a symbolic way of stepping over our teacher. Instead, flip the mala 108 degrees and keep going the same direction

I started using mala beads for almost a year now and it has been an amazing experience. I created my own mala necklace with delicious rose quartz and turquoise to promote emotional healing. The experience of it was really fun, especially when you use the right crystals for you that will open up your intuition.

It might seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially when you know you’re going to chant 108 times or more, but it’s a wonderful tool to keep you focused in the present while meditating. I highly suggest it for those who can’t stand staying still during meditation since you’re moving the beads while chanting and also those who want a slightly strict version of meditation.